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Dawgs must focus on frontcourt

ATHENS, Ga. -- If the Georgia Bulldogs still have a winning record the next time they take the court at Stegeman Coliseum, they will have played inspired basketball through a 12-day stretch.

The Bulldogs (3-0) wobbled to home wins against the likes of Wofford, Bowling Green and South Dakota State, but the level of competition is about to take an enormous step up -- beginning with tonight's matchup against No. 18 California (3-0) in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo.

Before its next home game, Dec. 2 against Cincinnati, Georgia will play five games in 12 days. In that stretch, the Bulldogs will play three -- possibly four -- ranked teams. They will face either Notre Dame (4-0) or No. 21 Missouri (3-0) in their final CBE Classic game Tuesday.

"That's what we all came for," Georgia freshman Nemanja Djurisic said of the tough competition that awaits his team. "We are looking forward to every game, especially the strong teams like in the next games."

The Bulldogs must find solutions in the post if they are to challenge ranked teams in the coming weeks. Bowling Green dominated Georgia on the boards, while Wofford and South Dakota State each out-rebounded the Bulldogs in the first half before Georgia rallied to win the rebounding battle by a hair.

After losing NBA draft picks Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie and post men Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes, the Bulldogs are still searching for answers in the paint -- and the search thus far has seldom produced an appealing result.

Starting sophomores Donte Williams (8.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Marcus Thornton (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) have their moments -- Williams posted 17 points and seven rebounds in the Bulldogs' most recent game against South Dakota State. But coach Mark Fox is still searching for consistency from his young frontcourt.

"It's been a major concern since last year," Fox said. "It's an area where we don't have a proven rebounder that returns. We have to work at that, and we will."

Djurisic has also been a bright spot off the bench, averaging 8.7 points and three rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game.

He helped the Bulldogs pull away from South Dakota State by scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half, after the score was tied at halftime.

But there is a major difference between South Dakota State and the ranked teams from major conferences that await the Bulldogs in the next two weeks.

"I think we just need to build our offense, keep the defensive intensity up and just keep playing hard," Williams said. "I think we just need to rebound better. I think if we keep teams off the boards, it can help a lot."

Williams, Thornton and the Bulldogs' other young players in the post have struggled to keep opponents off the boards thus far -- Georgia is getting outrebounded by an average of 40-36 through three games -- which is not a surprise for a team replacing so much frontcourt experience.

While that transition occurs, expect to see bigger opponents try to exploit Georgia's inexperience until the Bulldogs prove they have discovered a dependable solution in the post.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.